Torpedoes men take two home wins and look to keep improving

THE UWA Torpedoes recorded two hard fought wins over the UTS Balmain Tigers to begin their home stand in the National Water Polo League season and while coach Andrei Kovalenko sees room for further improvement, he is liking what he’s seeing particularly defensively.

The Torpedoes began the NWPL season with 11 games on the road with the defending champion men’s team winning seven.

That led into the first two games at UWA Aquatic Centre last weekend with the Torpedoes managing to beat the Tigers 8-4 on Thursday night and 6-4 in a tight contest on Saturday night.

UWA women go down fighting, men beat Balmain again 

Those wins improve UWA to an impressive 9-4 record on the season coming off last year’s premiership victory.

That is without Olympian George Ford as well who has been ruled out for all of the 2017 NWPL season following a shoulder reconstruction.

In his absence, his younger brother Andrew Ford continues to step up impressively and he scored another three goals across the two games against Balmain.

“Andrew is a good talent and he is far away from where he can be still, but he’s going in the right direction,” Kovalenko said.

“We are really happy with him. He is an excellent worker and team member, and teammate, and I hope he has a big future in the sport.”

Kovalenko knew that the Tigers were always going to be a challenging opposition across the two games and particularly on Saturday night once they had time to shake off the jetlag and also add in a star from the Victorian Seals last year, Matthew Gronow.

To come away with the two wins left Kovalenko happy enough but not totally satisfied with the way the Torpedoes are performing.

“It’s very nice to win our first two home games against opposition like Balmain. It doesn’t matter if they are up the top of the bottom of the ladder, they are always very competitive and a strong team who always play to the end,” he said.

“It’s very important to get these two wins to recover for the road trip and it was important to give the boys some confidence. The first game they were just off the plane and we know that feeling because when we go to the eastern states we go through the same.

“They were jetlagged in the first game, so it was tough for them and we knew they would be tougher on Saturday. They also gained from last game Matt Gronow, a left-hander who played at Victorian Seals last year and he scored five goals in the game against us in the final.

“So we were worrying about him and we put Nick Hughes on him full-time, and it worked. He did a good job pretty much the whole game to shut him down. It meant we lost Nick in attack and we will take that risk, but we gained a lot in defence.

“Only once Nick wasn’t around him and Matt Gronow scored a goal, but the rest of the time Nick was on him not much damage was done. In between Andrew and Nick, that side was covered perfectly.”

Kovalenko is particularly happy with the Torpedoes at the defensive end, though, and they had big raps on the job captain Nick Hughes did on Saturday night in shutting down Gronow.

“We also build our team on our defence first,” he said.

“There is a different variety in water polo and someone said the best defence is offence, but if you have a very structured defence and you are always sharp on the counter attack, then you bring some kind of insecurity into the opposition.

“Then you can build up your attack on that, and that’s the way we look at it.”

While Kovalenko is still happy with parts of the way the Torpedoes are playing and to sit on a 9-4 record with all the road games behind them, he does want to see continued improvement moving towards the finals.

“We are still winning games which is good, but we need to get our game to the next level still this year,” Kovalenko said.

“It’s not quite there yet and it’s important for us to keep winning, and playing to find our best game by the end of the season.”